The battle of the Sambre 4 November 1918

Clayton, John Derek (2016). The battle of the Sambre 4 November 1918. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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The Battle of the Sambre was the last large-scale set-piece battle of the Great War. The German army was determined to hold a defensive line incorporating the Mormal Forest and the Sambre-Oise canal, hoping to buy time for a strategic withdrawal to the Meuse and thereby negotiate a compromise peace.

This thesis analyses the battle at the operational and tactical levels: the BEF was no longer striving for a breakthrough – sequential ‘bite and hold’ was now the accepted method of advance. The difference between plan and reality is examined, highlighting the levels of tactical competence of units engaged and also the role of the Royal Engineers, whose tasks involved devising improvised bridging equipment to facilitate the crossing of the waterway.

The competence of brigade and battalion commanders is examined: some proved capable of pragmatic flexibility in the face of stubborn enemy resistance and were able to adapt or even abandon original plans in order to ensure ultimate success.

It was a decisive victory for the BEF, which irrevocably crushed the will of the German defenders, leading to the pursuit of a demoralised, broken and beaten army, whose means of continued resistance had been destroyed, and thus expedited the armistice.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: School of History and Cultures, Department of History
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > D History (General) > D501 World War I
D History General and Old World > DA Great Britain
D History General and Old World > DD Germany


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